Wahrsprechen, Wortergreifung und »Collateral Murder«

Zur Aktualität von Michel Foucaults Begriff der parrhesia

Gerald Posselt


The article pursues two objectives. In a first step it will be argued that the ancient notion of parrhesia or truth-telling - as elaborated by Michel Foucault in his last lectures at the Collège de France - can serve as a key for a critical analysis and reevaluation of the relation of rhetoric and pragmatics. This discussion will foreground the fact that Foucault himself decisively attempts to differentiate parrhesia from rhetoric, speech act theory and pragmatics. Although this attempt is finally doomed to failure, what becomes apparent in this very failure is a fundamental ambivalence and undecidability that is - as a structural moment - inherent to speech itself. In a second step the significance of the notion of parrhesia for current issues of democracy - as the right of speaking out and seizing the word - will be pointed out. Starting with the analysis of parrhesia as a specific practice by which the individual constitutes itself as a speaking subject by committing itself to the truth of the said, the injurious and subjectivating moment as well as the particular relation to death and to the other opened up by parrhesia will be elaborated and exemplified by the case of the whistleblower Bradley Manning.

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